Software that makes life better (for me anyway…)

I thought it would be interesting to make a list of the software applications I find extremely useful right now (15 February 2010), just so I can review it in a year to see which apps stand the test of time.

Big props to all the developers and Product Managers that contributed to the apps below. You made each day just that little bit better.

Development  / Productivity / Work

Firefox with Firebug

Any web developer or designer cannot live without the Mozilla Firefox browser with the Firebug extension. The Firebug extensions is the best tool available for debugging websites issues by giving you the ability to view and customize html, css, and javascript on the fly. Add the FireCookie extension into Firebug to view and edit cookies and you’re completely set.  IE8 and Google Chrome now include Web Developer tools natively, but I don’t find them as extensive or as intuitive as Firebug.

Firefox with FireFTP

FireFTP is another Firefox plugin, and it’s the best FTP program I’ve used. It’s free and supports SFTP. Check, check.

Notepad++

I use Notepad++ everyday. If I quickly need to edit a simple piece of HTML, or open up a large log file, or find/replace something in any kind of text file, I just right-click the file | Edit in Notepad++ and within seconds it’s ready to go. It includes syntax highlighting for just about any file type you can imagine and the best find/replace functionality you’ll find.

Camtasia Studio

There’s quite a bit of software around that helps you create video demonstrations by recording your screen, but Camtasia Studio is by far the best one I’ve found. It’s not free, but well worth the price. I think the killer feature is the automatic zoom. The software works out the area of your screen that you’re focusing on and zooms in, out and around your screen. Sometimes it doesn’t get it right, but these ‘zoom points’ are easily edited.

Here’s a few demo’s I’ve created with it:

GoToMeeting

As a Software Product Manager, I often have to deal with customer support. Dealing with customers purely by email and phone can be a massive time waster as there are some things a customer won’t even think of telling you. I’ve often jumped on a GoToMeeting session only to find a typo, or a 3rd party anti-virus product popping up and interfering with a process. I’ve had a few web sessions using WebEx, and I find that GoToMeeting kicks its butt in terms of simplicity, ease of use, and compatibility.

Social

Tweetdeck

Pretty much every tweet I make is with Tweetdeck, whether that is on my Windows 7 laptop, Home PC or on iPhone. Things I like about Tweetdeck include the ‘Show preview information for short URLs’ setting which allows you to check out the full URL behind shortened URL links, and if it’s a bit.ly link, it gives you the link to the bit.ly analytics for that URL. It also cross posts to Facebook, Myspace and Linkedin.

Posterous

Posterous is a blog site that lets you create a blog simply by sending an email to your posterous email address. It then cross posts to Twitter, Facebook, or another 3rd party blog. That’s pretty cool, but to tell you the truth, the only reason I use it is when I need to tweet a video using their picPosterous iPhone app.

WordPress

I couldn’t talk about Posterous without mentioning WordPress. WordPress makes what you’re reading right now possible. You can either setup a quick easy blog via WordPress.com, or get complete control and host your own version (See WordPress.org). I host my own and the setup is pretty easy, especially if your hosting provider offers it as a standard feature. I host my domain through GoDaddy, and adding WordPress is as simple as clicking a button.

The reason I prefer WordPress over any other blogging tool (such as Blogger and SquareSpace) is the extensibility. There’s a massive community of plugin developers that let you easily add any feature to your blog (SEO, social media sharing, surveys etc).

Lifestyle / Hobbies / Fun

Quota

Quota is an iPhone app developed by SouthFreo software lets me check where I’m at with my mobile phone’s data plan usage and ISP data usage, it also shows me the latest page views from Google Analytics, but I mainly use it to check out the traffic cameras on my route to and from work.

It utilizes a file format called Quota XML that defines how to pull information from web sites and push it into the controls within the application. Anyone can add new providers by learning how to write Quota XML. Writing a provider that grabs my latest bank account balance is on my list of things to do!

TED Talks App

If I’m heading out for a short walk or drive and I’ve run out of podcasts to listen to, I’ll fire up the TED talks iPhone app and listen to something random. The 18 minute talks are more often than not interesting, amusing and inspiring.

iPhone

Yeah, OK, this isn’t software but after talking about the iPhone apps above, I thought I better mention the iPhone itself. One device to entertain me, inform me, organize me, help me communicate, and it all just works. I actually hate that I like it some much due to Apple’s iron grip on the AppStore, so I can’t wait until Android offers a suitable replacement (NexusOne looks OK, but still a bit rough).

Line6 Guitar Port & Gearbox

I have an awesome 100 Watt Peavey Classic 100 amplifier that I have not plugged in for over 3 years. Given I can only play guitar when my two kids have gone to sleep (otherwise they want to play too), this amp is just too friggin loud for my 3×1 house!

The Line6 Guitar port lets me plug my Les Paul into my computer and the Gearbox software provides a model for pretty much every amplifier ever worth playing along with any combination of speaker cabinet and effects. This all gets pumped straight into my ears via some Sony headphones and no one else in the house is aware that I’m cranking through a Marshall stack set to 11.

It also has an inbuilt mp3 player that lets you loop and slow down any track for practicing. But perhaps the best feature is the ability to search for a band or song and instantly load the guitar tone (amps, cabinets and effects).

More?

I’m sure there are more great apps that I haven’t mentioned and if I think of them I’ll come back and update this post. I’ll also I’ll update in a year or so with the apps that have fallen off my list and what has replaced them. If you’re reading this after the 15th of Feb 2011, give me a poke! :)

If you have an uber-useful app that I’ve missed, let me know in the comments!

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